Who’s Behind the Trays?


Dianne Barahona Bonilla, Reporter

For 188 days a year, Briar Woods students enjoy four classes a day, each lasting an hour and a half. However, when the bell rings at 12:31, it’s time for a student’s favorite time of the day: lunch. Kitchen staff across the county work hard to provide a delicious (and nutritious) meal to over 80,000 students. Few people are aware of the arduous effort that goes on behind the trays. So, let’s take a look inside into the world of the lunch ladies. 

Beginning at 7:00 am fresh in the morning, kitchen staff begin preparing our delicious breakfast followed by lunch, snack, and then, surprisingly, dinner. The undercover wizard behind all the cooking magic is known as Yashpal Kaur, the manager of the Briar Woods kitchen team. Every two hours, they thoroughly sanitize the equipment and anything else that could possibly come into contact with the food. Kaur makes sure the kitchen is in tip-top shape. Especially with COVID-19, which drastically affected inventory levels. At 3:00 pm sharp, the lunch ladies wrap up their day with an intensive cleaning and wait for the next day where it starts all over again. 

LCPS decides the lunch menu as well as the breakfast and dinner every day. They adhere to strict guidelines and make sure to be inclusive of students’ dietary needs, offering both vegetarian and meat options. Despite the limited supply, the lunch ladies spend countless hours setting up the display to make the food look appealing to kids as they don’t want them to skip meals. Not only that, but they try to prepare “special snacks” like smoothies and salads, which are not on the menu.

Every lunch block students constantly struggle to pile their food onto the enclosed space given on the cardboard plates leaving students wondering: what happened to the trays? 

The answer is none other than the dreaded COVID-19. The virus has caused a tray shortage throughout Loudoun County, leaving Yashpal Kaur to order the trays herself. “We feel very bad,” Kaur said, “I see the students dropping their food all the time, but there’s nothing we can do.” Little is known about when our taken-for-granted trays will return. It could be weeks; it could be months, but for the time being, let us silently mourn the loss of our beloved trays and food lost to the floor. 

The delicacies of Briar Woods do not go without appreciation; several caring students have left thank you cards and words of encouragement to the lunch ladies. The gifts peacefully reside in the offices’ of the cafeteria staff serving as motivation. Yashpal Kaur said, “The one thing that motivates me and the staff most is seeing students eat” adding that they want them to “eat well and be active.” Students, on the other hand, often skip over the vegetables and head right to the snacks. 

Eight laborious hours — the time it takes to prepare food for an entire school. An amiable smile appears on the lunch ladies’ faces as they hand out our food, and we are met with yet another smile when clicking our lunch numbers into the keypad. Two words of gratitude can make all the difference between a good and bad day. I don’t mean to sound like your parents, but please eat your vegetables. Not only will they make you healthier, but they will also bring joy to your BW staff: the lunch ladies.